There exists in the San Francisco Bay Area a sub rosa culture of neo bohemians unlike other urban areas of the country.
Since the rough and tumble days of the California Gold Rush, San Francisco has always drawn wanderers, midnight riders and scalawags from all points of the compass. In fact in the mid 19 Century, much of the terra firma upon which the Media District, South of Market and AT&T Park are built was an ad hoc seascape of opium barges, barnacled scooners and shanties. Ironically the aforementioned are some of the pricier areas on the waterfront, but this was not always so.
San Francisco and its industrial stepsister, Oakland, are in many ways the tale of two cities. Both cities are known nationally and due in large part to mega-franchise sports teams, globally. On a clear summer night, you can sit along the first baseline at AT&T Park, watch The San Francisco Giants and let your eyes drift over the right field wall, across the bay and see the nebulous glow of the Oakland Coliseum, where the A’s are also playing ball.
A little known fact: NO ONE who lives in San Francisco calls it anything other than the city. If you pop off with “Frisco” or (God forbid) “San Fran”, chances are the locals will not-too-politely hit you with a nod and maybe a “see ya.”
In single word descriptions, SF is snobby; Oakland is gritty.
Were you to jump on BART at Powell Street, glide beneath the bay and jump off at the Fruitvale Station, from the elevated tracks of the East Bay the impression you would absorb, aside from the gantry cranes and port facilities, is that Oakland appears to be San Francisco’s dumping ground. Scrap yards, recycling plants, sweat shops and graffiti pasted warehouses are where all manner of artists live.
At International Bouleveard and 31st, next to a vacant lot littered with vacant lot stuff, sits an ugly, forgotten edifice; its pearl gray and pink paint scheme subtly suggests what it used to be: a shipping point for a defunct dairy. A screaming skeleton reminiscent of Dia de Los Muertos art combined with a flea market T-shirt, was painted over crude block letters that read GHOST SHIP.
In this questionable and undeniably unique environment, 36 people suffocated, sent heart wrenching text messages and burned to death. They were: lawyers, teachers, trannies, painters. Addicts, philosophers, musicians and DJ’s. Each shared many things in common. But the average San Francisco Chronicle reading “square” might draw this conclusion: they were dynamic souls, perhaps a little lost, perhaps a lot. But in their own ways, they made their journeys accessible to all.
At first blush the Ghost Ship tragedy is sure to hurt, even to the casual viewer. But if you look a little deeper, if you have experienced a Damascus moment in your life, your spirit will begin to whisper. It will whisper of ghostly disguised demons and the razzle-dazzle of artistry painted across 36 stories.
(Note the backward writing…straight out of Crowley)
36 different beginnings and middles that ended the same: in smoke choking darkness, amid screams of panic, drowned by the roar of fire exploding across the back wall of a 10,000 square foot space. A blast furnace that thirty seconds earlier echoed with electronic musical experimentation. A space that had been crafted over three and a half years into a labyrinth of installation art, methamphetamine frenzied slap-dashery and living spaces comprised of ply wood, pallets and second hand rugs.
Today the Ghost Ship reeks of charred loss. On December 2nd, prior to 11:20pm, it smelled of Nag Champa, patchouli and cat urine.
So what happened? There are literally tens of thousands of published words describing the tragic timetable that led up to the conflagration, but here it is in a nut shell.
Approximately a week before the Friday fire, promotions hit social media, announcing a low key electronica event to feature a handful of SF and Oakland DJ’s, in support of 100% Silk recording artist, Golden Donna.
MSM erroneously broke the early stories of the event as having been a rave.
I practically lived in that scene from 1991-1994 and can attest, the event was not a rave. From posters, social media announcements and an Instagram video posted just minutes before the fire erupted, what party-goers expected was more akin to a beer-in-bag, smoke in your hand, mellow show.
Raves have many complexions and unlike the early days of the scene when the underground combo of house music, techno, ecstasy and dingy forgotten spaces leaped the Atlantic and into the alleys of New York and San Francisco, today kids go to “raves” in Diluth, Fort Collins and Boise.
To examine the Ghost Ship fire through the lens of spiritual discernment, you must first understand what ingredients make a rave, a rave.
Raves are tribal. They are a place where peripheral acquaintances meet up and share drugs, become best friends forever, dance to dehydration and chain smoke. Then you leave with the sunrise and head to either an after party or home. Depression hits. Your rave BFFs are gone and most who genuinely felt the overwhelming flood of spiritual rocketry and heavy dope await the next party.
Raves are kept secret and you must be connected to find the real deal parties. In the 90’s we often met single shadowy figures in gas station parking lots, behind Latino watering holes or waited at our hook-ups house for a phone call.
The Ghost Ship was a gathering. It was not a rave.
The atomic particles that would ultimately combust three weeks ago started in mid 2013 when whacked out scenesters, Derick Almena and his wife, Allison leased the former dairy warehouse from Oakland slumlord, Cho Ng. Reports state the lease was $3500 per month for the 10,000 square foot rats’ nest.
The couple, admitted methamphetamine users, began creating a melange of “installation art” within the concrete hull.
Simultaneously they began subleasing nonexistent living spaces to artists and musicians who were one cigarette away from homeless, scrapping and scrounging in the second costliest urban epicenter in America.
If you wanted to live in the Ghost Ship the criteria were minimal. The rent for your yet unbuilt shanty ran $500 to $700 per month. Dirt cheap in a city flooded with San Francisco expats who cough up two grand to live above a noodle shop in Chinatown. You had to be a 24 hour type person who would not only refrain from calling authorities when all night dope-fests shook the walls; it was preferable that you participate. Visual artists and musicians were given preferential priority.
Once you dropped your duffel in your “space” it was time to construct loft style sleeping platforms, recording nooks built from thrift store pedal organs and vacant lot pianos. You could furnish your warren with exotic rugs, twinkle lights and pagan idols. Candles were forbidden. Space heaters, propane tanks and tangles of extension cords threaded through the maze. .
Without the photographic journal of what this space looked like, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article. But upon close examination, my mind can hear the laughter, the tuning of a guitar; I can smell the mildew, dust and weed.
Those of you who have patronized the underground club scene in any major city, please bear with me; many readers have not.
When you arrive at one of these venues, there is a muscle tightening anxiety that floods your abdomen and constricts your heart. You grip your date’s hand. Fire up a smoke. You leave your car on a scary side street and walk briskly, then very casually to the door. The door is often simply that: an anonymous door in a nondescript wall. Nothing fancy. No awning, no velvet rope and certainly no sign. You pay the guy at the door and step into a different world.
Sights dim to near darkness. The spicy scent of Nag Champa blends with cigarette smoke. A beat pumps and pulses around the walls, down the halls, it echoes off kaleidescopes of laughter and that inner anxiety wanes. It releases its icy grip on your innards and washes through you like a triple tequila. The beat permeates your body and you unconsciously begin to move. From 9:00pm through the spilt second, panicked, blackened smoke static of desperate searching for the door, this is what was going down.
The plan was to alter your mindscape with whatever felonies you posessed, let the frequencies of the dark world trick your soul and move with tribal beats that are a clarion to demons, a summons, since the dawn of man and drum.
Authorities estimate that between 70 and 100 people were in the warehouse when the fire erupted, throwing a millisecond volcano across the rear wall of the Ghost Ship. Residents stated that they had time to grab their cat or shoes and crash through the firetrap to a door that was almost impossible to find. If you were unfamiliar with the layout it was impossible to find.
Flames plumed from the ground floor up to the second floor space that served as the stage and gathering spot.
One thought exploded through everyones’ mind: FIND THE STAIRS. Thirty six lives were nailed closed when the rickety pirate ship of pallets that served as stairs collapsed in conflagration. The windows on the second floor were no use. The mullions were steel, a final reminder of the Ghost Ship’s previous function.
Frantic, last minute texts were sent to loved ones. I so dearly hope that prayers of repentance zoomed heavenward ahead of the flames. Only a just, righteous and loving God knows the score.
But here is what we can see: much like the grim stories I have shared with all of you through the 2015 broadcasts when Doug, Joe and I pointed an arc light at Luciferian Hollywood, inside that warehouse and inside many of the souls that perished was one of the most potent toxins that Satan uses to build his Legion. Like an actor who admits letting the spirits come in, or Beyonce calling forth Sasha Fierce, Satan was building an army in that warehouse. Sadly, when one examines the lives of the victims, a reasonable argument can be made that many of the devil’s recruits were spiritual Manchurian Candidates.
They explored frequencies and beats created by technology (technos, Greek, meaning witchcraft). They painted the scenes delivered by their muses. They did drugs and smashed through speed fueled nights with hammers, glue guns and string.
If you sequestered any of the inhabitants of the Ghost Ship and asked them if they worship Satan, they would scoff and walk away.
Was the Ghost Ship Fire a Satanic sacrifice? What prompted some to walk to the liquor store, check on the car or exit to make a call minutes before death dropped on the hidden locale?
Will we see more of these incidents? Are members of your family involved in this culture? Join Doug Hagmann and I this evening and together we will examine the only thing that remains after this terrifying mass casualty event; the only commodity that God deals in: souls.